Today is the conclusion of the "Worst of the Best" series, in which I look at the worst Hall of Famers of four different sports by position. After previous looks at the baseball, football, and basketball Halls of Fame, it is now time to look at the Hockey Hall of Fame's worst players by position. Since there are usually two defensemen on the ice at the same time, my "Worst of the Best" team will also have two defensemen. Keep in my that I don't necessarily think that the players I have chosen as the "Worst" were bad players or anything like that, it's just that I find their place in the Hockey Hall of Fame somewhat befuddling. Well, as the Black Eyed Peas would say, let's get it started.
D: Leo Boivin, Playing Career 1952-1970, Inducted 1986
A checking defenseman, Boivin was most remembered for his devastating body checks that he dealt out with relish during his 19 year career. While Boivin had a long career, it's hard to see what exactly made him stand out to Hall voters. After all, Boivin only played in three All-Star games, never made an All-League team, and in his 19 seasons, only saw action in the postseason in seven of those seasons, even though he played the majority of his career in the Original Six era and had a 4 out of 6 chance to make the playoffs. Was Boivin a good player? Sure, but was he memorable enough to merit inclusion into the Hall of Fame? Well, I'm not so sure about that.
If Boivin is in, then why not:
J.C. Trembley? Trembley played in seven All-Star games (although three of which he made because those games were the All-Star team against his Montreal Canadiens), made the All-NHL second team in 1968 and the All-NHL first team in 1971. While with the Canadiens, Trembley was a key member of five Stanley Cup winning teams. After the 1972 season, Trembley jumped to the Quebec Nordiques of the WHA, and while in Quebec, Trembley won two Dennis Murphy awards as the league's best defenseman and is second all-time in WHA history with 358 assists. Trembley was a heck of a defenseman in the NHL and probably the best defenseman in WHA History, but his jump to the WHA may have cost Trembley a spot in the Hall of Fame.
D- Fern Flaman - 1945-1961, Inducted 1990
Flaman was once traded with Leo Boivin by the Boston Bruins to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1950. Four years later, both players were traded back to Boston in separate deals. Flaman was a little more accomplished than Boivin, making the All-NHL second team three times and playing in seven All-Star games. Flaman was a feared player who retired with the third most penalty minutes in NHL history. However, Flaman's playing career wasn't terribly memorable, and he was nearly a zero on the offensive end, scoring a point every four games and finishing his 17 year career with a mere 34 goals. So it's hard to see what exactly made Flaman stand out over other defensemen to get in the Hall.
If Flaman is in, then why not:
Gus Mortson, Mortson and Flaman were rather similar players, as both were defensemen that played around the same time and racked up penalty minutes as two of the most aggressive players of their era. Mortson played in eight All-Star games (six as an All-Star, two as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs), was an All-NHL first team defender in 1949-50, and led the NHL in penalty minutes four times. Mortson also was a member of four Stanley Cup winners with the Maple Leafs. To me, Flaman and Mortson were quite similar players with similar resumes, but one is in the Hall while the other is out, so go figure.
LW: Dick Duff, 1955-1972, Inducted 2006
To be honest, I had a hard choice picking between Duff and Clark Gilles here, but ultimately I went with Duff because his induction was so strange. After over 30 years of retirement, Duff was suddenly voted into the Hall in 2006, leaving many people to wonder, who is Dick Duff? Well, Duff was a member of six Stanley Cup winning teams with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. He also played in seven All-Star games, although four of those were because he was a member of the defending championship team. Duff was considered to be a better postseason player than regular season player, somewhat like hockey's version of Robert Horry or the Claude Lemieux of the 1960s. Of course, neither of those guys are in the Hall of Fame as of yet and its hard to see why Duff is either. He never scored more than 53 points in a single season, never had a 30 goal season, and its not as if the Hall needed more Maple Leafs or Canadiens from that era in the Hall of Fame. Yes, Duff was a contributor to many Stanley Cup winning teams, but so were Kris Draper, and Kevin Lowe, and Craig MacTavish. So what makes Duff different from any of those guys?
If Duff is in, then why not:
Dean Prentice? During Duff's playing career (1955-1972), Prentice scored more goals (353-283) and considerably more points (787-572) than Duff. Prentice played in four All-Star games, and in 1960 was named to the NHL All-Second team. Duff had five 20-goal seasons to his credit, while Prentice had 10 during his career. For his career, Prentice finished with 391 goals, retiring as the 12th leading goal scorer in NHL history. Yes, Prentice never won a Stanley Cup, but he also didn't have the fortune of playing with a roster full of Hall of Famers like Duff did.
C: Bernie Federko, 1977-1990, Inducted 2002
Federko has some impressive numbers that are in part due to the high scoring era in which he played in. In his career, Federko put up four 100 point seasons and finished with 1,130 points. It should also be noted that Federko scored 101 points in 90 playoff while playing for some St. Louis Blues teams that weren't exactly loaded with talent. However, Federko never finished higher than eighth in points, never finished in the top 10 in goals, and only played in two All-Star games during his 14 year career. Federko was a very good player, but in my opinion, he wasn't a great player.
If Federko is in, then why not:
Adam Oates? Oates was actually traded for Federko in 1989 in a deal that didn't work out so well for the Red Wings, as Federko only lasted one year in Detroit. Meanwhile, Oates was just getting started on a career that landed him in five All-Star games and a spot on the 1990-91 All-NHL second team. During his career, Oates led the NHL in assists three times, finished in the top three in points three times, and finished in the top ten in assists in 12 different seasons. Oates ranks 16th all-time in points with 1,420, and is sixth in assists all-time with 1,079. Like Federko, Oates never won a Stanley Cup, but did play in two Stanley Cup Finals and scored 156 points in 163 career playoff games. Put all that together, and Oates looks like a Hall of Famer to me, but he is still on the outside looking in.
RW: Glenn Anderson - 1981-1996, Inducted 2008
Anderson, like Federko, played the majority of his career in the high scoring 1980s and therefore, was able to put up some impressive numbers that were in large part due to his talents, but also was somewhat due to the era in which he played in. Anderson put up some impressive numbers during his career (498 goals, 601 assists), but only finished in the top 10 in goals three times and in the top 10 in points once. A four time All-Star, Anderson is most known for his playoff exploits with the Edmonton Oilers during their dynasty, as Anderson ranks fourth in career playoff points with 214 and has his name etched on six Stanley Cups. However, one could argue that Anderson was merely the beneficiary of playing with such great players such as Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, and Paul Coffey, and the only reason he was able to play in so many playoff games was because of the talent of his teammates more than anything he did. Yes, Anderson did score a lot of key goals for the Oilers, but he also was never seriously considered more than a supporting player for the Oilers and was basically finished as a player by the time he hit 30. There's a reason why it took so long for Anderson to get into the Hall, it's because he's a borderline candidate.
If Anderson is in, then why not:
Pat Verbeek? Okay, Verbeek is also a borderline candidate much like Anderson, but in my opinion, the 'Little Ball of Hate' is just as, if not more deserving than Anderson. Verbeek has the unique distinction of being the only player in NHL history with over 500 goals (522) and over 2,500 penalty minutes (2,905, which ranks 11th all time). Verbeek didn't have a ton of big seasons and was only a two time All-Star, but he scored 35 goals or more in seven different seasons, like Anderson, and unlike Anderson, Verbeek was considered a good player on the defensive end of the ice. Verbeek may not have had the postseason success of Anderson, but he was a key member of the Dallas Stars' 1999 Stanley Cup team. Yes, Verbeek may have been too aggressive at times, as his penalty minutes number suggests, but his grit and goal-scoring ability made him an asset on any team he played with.
G- Chuck Rayner - 1941-1953, Inducted 1973
Rayner was a four-time All-Star, a three time member of the all-NHL second team and won the 1950 Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player, which is a feat only four other goalies have accomplished. While he accomplished a lot, the fact is that Rayner is one of only two goalies (Gump Worsley being the other) to have a career losing record and be a member of Hockey's Hall of Fame. Other than losses, the only category Rayner led the league in was shutouts, with five in 1947, and for his career, Rayner finished with a record of 138-208-77. Yes, I admit that Rayner played behind some pretty bad teams during his career, but a .422 winning percentage in goal is not stellar by any means, so that's why Rayner is on this list.
If Rayner is in, then why not:
Mike Richter? Both Rayner and Richter were career long Rangers, and both men backstopped the Rangers to a game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final. While Rayner's Rangers came up short in 1950, it was Richter who was the man between the pipes as the Rangers ended their 54-year long Stanley Cup drought in 1994. During his career, Richter played in three All-Star games and is one of only 24 goalies to finish his career with over 300 wins (301). Richter finished his career with a .904 save percentage and 2.89 GAA, and played even better in the postseason, with a .909 save percentage, a 2.61 GAA, and nine career postseason shutouts to his credit. Richter also was a three-time Olympian for the USA, and backstopped Team USA to a Silver Medal in the 2002 Olympics and a Gold Medal at the 1996 World Cup, where he also won the MVP award for his play in that event. Yes, Richter was a fine goaltender for the Rangers, and would be a worthy addition to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Well, thanks for reading. If you happen to agree or disagree with my selections, than feel free to express your opinions on this topic. If you have any comments on this post, or ideas for future posts, than send me them either by leaving a comment or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.